30 April 2005

April

The March Swear Box and diary were actually written and completed, ready to upload to the website, on 29th March – two full days before the official end of the month. I persuaded myself not to swear at any cost on these last two days so that I wouldn’t have to update or adjust the finished March entries and I'd save myself from extra work. I was indeed able to halt my swear output on these two days, saving myself the additional workload. This forced lack of swearing however, continued well into April and not a single swear word was uttered for the first week. April has resulted in being one of the lowest scoring months (second only to February) with only 9 swear words being said in total.

Unfortunately it has still been unnecessary to truly utilise the mobile phone ‘voice memo’ device, as all swears uttered in April have been within reaching distance of the a pen and paper. However the thought of using the ‘voice memo’ device remains eternally in the back-of-my-mind, just in case I am called upon to record a swear word when out and about in an awkward-to-write-down situation.

Motivation...

Around 15th April, I received some positive feedback from my sister Flo Harrison. She confessed to having read the entire 3656 words that make up the first 3 months of the swear diary. It was encouraging to think that the hard work I’ve put into writing the swear diary, which has taken almost ½ a day each month, has been worth it. It’s good to know that the diary has been of interest to a least one person, who also commented that she found it quite amusing in places.

Sliding Definitions...

Several incidents of note occurred in April which will add further to the debate of what should and what should not be defined as a swear word: Firstly, on 9th April I went to a lecture at the Royal College of Art by my friend Richard Dedemonici. At the start of the lecture Richard made a statement that his lecture normally contained two swear words, but that he had removed one of them because his Grandfather was in the audience. I listened carefully throughout the lecture to hear the only remaining swear word, which he had said could not be removed because it was a direct quote.

I was very surprised to hear that this remaining swear word was in fact the word ‘dick’ and was maliciously aimed at Richard by a local as he paraded around Liverpool dressed up as Boris Johnson. When a complete stranger shouted this word at Richard, it did sound quite rude and made me consider whether indeed I should alter my defined swear words to incorporate this word.

Never Mind The Definitions...

Secondly, on 17th April, I was unfortunate enough to find myself stuck watching The One Hundred Greatest Albums countdown programme on Channel 4. At number 31 in the Chart was ‘Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols’. A title which I could not repeat without racking up a swear word on my own chart. An interesting anecdote emerged. When the album was released in 1977, Virgin faced prosecution for violating the 1889 Indecent Advertising Act for using the word ‘bollocks’ on their record sleeve and in promotional material. In order to get Virgin off the hook, their lawyer traced back the history of the word. What he found was that it had been in use since around 1000 AD and actually appeared in medieval bibles describing a small ball like shape. The word had also been used in the 19th century to describe clergymen who tended to speak nonsense. Sure enough Virgin was pardoned and ‘bollocks’ was deemed legal. This strange story left me wondering whether maybe the word is too tame to deserve its positioning at number 8 in my list of defined swear words...



On 22nd April, I was emailed by a bloke named John from Nottingham. It was good to hear his enthusiasm about the Swear Box and the swear diary. John also raised the issue of the defined swear words. He had been in debate with his young son as to whether the word ‘damn’ should be considered a swear word. The boy of nine insists that it shouldn’t, but John still finds it offensive and maintains that it should. John made me consider whether I had deliberately left the word out of my list of defined swear words. I don’t think I do find it offensive, which is why it never made it onto the list, but what with changing language conventions, to an older person it could be, so perhaps I should re-consider...

A Wealth Of Knowledge...

As well as adding to the ongoing debate around the defined swear words, John also supplied me with a wealth of swear word research websites on the internet. In concern for my swear word withdrawal symptoms he recommended I visit this mild swear alternatives site – a particular favourite of mine. Now you’ll know what I mean next time I tell you you’re talking 'horse-hockey’.

Another fascinating find, is the Nation Master Encyclopaedia: Profanity definition – this website actually gives its own list of defined swear words, which does not strictly correlate with what I have defined for the Swear Box. It chooses to include the words ‘dick’, ‘tits’, ‘faggot’ and ‘n*gger’ which I have excluded. The first of these three could have been left out through oversight but it’s more likely to be because I personally just don’t find them that offensive. I mean it is difficult to know where to draw the line, what about ‘poof’ or ‘boobs’ – where’s their mention? The fourth of these words is left out of my list because it never has and never will be in my vocabulary (it actually pains me to write the word on my website – and I’ve already begun to worry about it being picked up in search engines!)

Conclusion...

April has been a month for debating the list of defined swear words. Richard Dedomenici, the Sex Pistols and the bloke named John from Nottingham have together helped me churn around the ideas of what I should and should not define as swear words. I have reached a conclusion of sorts. There are always going to be people who find words, which I do not, offensive. ‘Jesus Christ’ for example or ‘damn’ or ‘faggot’. On a side note: a ‘faggot’ is actually also a kind of pork meatball, a traditional dish of the Black Country, made from unwanted off-cuts of meat, typically a blend of sausage meat and offal – urgh! No actually to a strict vegetarian that is pretty offensive!

Anyhow what I’m trying to say is that my list of defined swear words is based on two things: a) words that are normally (or have in the past been) in my vocabulary and b) words which I personally (at the time of writing the list) would find offensive if someone aimed them at me. There may have been slight oversights (I wouldn’t take too kindly to being called a ‘dick’ by a stranger), but the list is now defined and for the sake of the Swear Box project it’s going to stay that way. As fascinating as the debate has been, rules are rules and the Swear Box will continue into May as it began...

May Swear Diary >